Road Transport and Highways minister Nitin Gadkari said that 4-6-8-laning of highways were “economically viable” even after factoring in the huge land acquisition costs, hitting out at critics including from within the government who have questioned the highway development program.
He also said that “strict action” would be taken against the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) official who had leaked a letter written by Prime Minister’s principal secretary Nripendra Misra on the issue.
“We have already got a problem because of media and because of the mindset of some government officials. Sometimes because of their attitude, because they don’t seem to understand business…where is the money, so this type of feeling creates problems,” Gadkari told investors at a road show in Mumbai recently.
“One example, somewhere some persons gave a presentation to the Prime Minister on the road sector and all other infrastructure projects. He gave a 1,400 page suggestions before the PM and one of the things he suggested was to monetise the assets of NHAI. That is also correct and we are also on the same line. The PM suggested to his principal Secretary to send this to all the departments to seek their opinion. So, the 1400-page projects report was sent to 8-9 departments and out of this one of the reports was also send to NHAI. One of the persons in NHAI did a WhatsApp and circulated it to the media. We will find out who did this and take strict against him. An impression has been created in the media that now NHAI is going to stop construction of roads, it is totally false,” Gadkari stated.
The minister said that, according to him, “4-6-8-laning of highways is “100% economically viable with good internal rate of return (IRR) even after considering the land acquisition and construction costs”.
“There is no problem. The government is giving about Rs 90,000 crore as budgetary support to NHAI. That is with us”.
“I’m confident. I’m planning a visit to NHAI office and going to study each and every project, because I want to close the mouth of people who are always talking about shortage of money,” Gadkari stated.
By FY22, NHAI will get back some of the BOT toll projects where the toll is very high, which will help the highway agency raise it toll revenues to about Rs. 4,000 crore a year.
Before the NDA assumed power in 2014, the road sector faced big problems due to land acquisition, utility shifting, environment and forest clearances.
“When the situation was very bad, the banks were very positive on financing highway projects. The fault then was either due to state or central governments because land was not available, environment and forest clearances was not there and non-performing assets (NPAs) started and majority of big companies landed in a mess,” he said.
“Now, we have a take decision, without 80% land acquisition, without utility shifting and environment and forest clearances, we will not give appointment date for projects. All things have been streamlined, but the problem now is that when we have cleared all the hurdles and the atmosphere is good, the banks, because of previous experience, their approach is not positive, that is the problem,” he said.
“Now, it’s a totally 100% secured sector, the IRR is very good and we are finding out some new solutions,” he added.
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